It's been exactly one year since LeBron James captivated America and changed the landscape of the NBA by announcing on ESPN that he would sign with the Miami Heat.
365 days later, how can we look at "The Decision"? Great trades or free agent signings don’t always have an immediate impact in winning rings. We’d be better off assessing in three to four years when the Heat get settled and learn how to be a team.
But one year later, we can see that at this point, it’s nothing short of a success. Even with the low ending this June in the NBA Finals, it was clearly the right decision for James’ career.
It doesn't change the fact that The Decision was a tasteless self-promotion that was in poor taste and reminiscent of high school players deciding where they'll attend college. It doesn't change that ESPN compromised journalistic integrity in a situation that will be studied for years on what not to do in the media.
It doesn't change that it was a classless way to let the Cleveland Cavaliers and their fans know his intentions or the silly pep rally the Heat and their fans held in the aftermath.
But it also doesn't ignore that it was a success for James, the Heat and the NBA.
First off, the Decision donated $3 million to several Boys and Girls clubs around the NBA. It may have looked like he was using the kids in attendance as props to deflect from anger but you can’t hate on the lives impacted by his donation.
Next, the move capitalized on the Celtics and Lakers’ return to prominence and helped usher in one of the most watched NBA seasons in years. Along with the other great story lines this year, the Heat became must see TV as people watched to see them succeed or fail.
On the court, it was a success as the Heat finished with the third-best record in NBA (58-24) and second in the Eastern Conference. Far below the unreasonable expectation of 70 wins but right where sharp hoops heads expected them, if not more.
They overachieved in the playoffs against an aging Boston Celtics squad and surprised most pundits by dominating the Chicago Bulls. James especially deserves credit for not just finishing the comeback in Game 5 on the road but shutting down league MVP Derrick Rose in an effort that showed why he's one of the top two-way players in the league.
Getting to the Finals was surprising since most hoops fans with common sense predicted they'd lose beforehand. Losing to a better team in the Dallas Mavericks doesn't mean the Decision was a failure as much as it showed why year one was a building block, not a completed process.
The Heat still have problems. They need a reliable point guard and more depth besides the awakening of Mario Chalmers. They need to develop a better offensive scheme to go along with their focus on defense. Finally, LeBron and Dwyane Wade need to find ways to coexist in the fourth quarter consistently and close games out instead of being frontrunners.
One can hope that LeBron will also use the fuel of this summer and the criticism of his NBA Finals performance to get better. That could be another sign of the Decision’s success if this summer’s aftermath humbles him and makes him fine-tune his game and image.
The Decision also came at the right time as the Eastern Conference is in transition. Boston won’t be around for more than another year. Chicago needs to get Derrick Rose more help as they remain a contender in the East. Orlando is a year away from potentially losing Dwight Howard.
What about the New York Knicks, who tried to copycat what the Heat did? Remind me the last time Mike D’Antoni won rings with his offense and I’ll remind you Carmelo Anthony’s playoff career high in points came last year while Amar’e Stoudemire sat on the bench. They aren't challenging for a title anytime soon.
There are those who’ll point out that it’s not a success because the Cavaliers struggled through a terrible season and Cleveland lost a big part of their economy. Or because it set the standard for other superstars to team up and eliminate the balance in the league?
And yes, the Heat did end the season without rings. But remember, the Decision was a long-term move, not a short-term gain despite how the media spun it or how James and Co. acted
If fans step back from their emotion and James’ substandard performance in the Finals, they’ll see the Decision was an overwhelming success in year one.
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